SALEM — Congressman Seth Moulton says he's "looking at" a run for president in 2020.
"I'm going to listen to people more than anything else," Moulton said Monday during a town hall meeting at Salem State University. "I'm going to spend even more time than I have in the past year listening to Americans and seeing what they are looking for in the next president.
"And, if I think that I might be able to fulfill some of those of things," he added, "if I am someone who can help people realize their dreams, then I'll step up and do it. But, ultimately, it's about how can I best serve the country. That's how I've always looked at this, and that's how I'm going to make this decision."
Moulton's Salem State talk came just hours after BuzzFeed News, an internet news organization, first reported that Moulton had said in an exclusive interview that he was considering running for president.
When Salem State sophomore Jonathan Stein asked him about reports that he might run, Moulton replied, "I'm looking at it. I appreciate the question.
"You know, one of the things that I see from traveling around this country so much and talking to a lot of people is that we need new ideas in our politics. We need new leadership in our politics. I have been fighting to get new leaders elected the last two years. And that's why I'm looking to run. So, no decisions yet, but thanks for your question."
The 40-year-old Salem Democrat would be jumping into an increasingly crowded pool of Democratic candidates, including at least five senators who have already launched their campaigns: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
"I'm taking a serious look at it and I'm going to be doing that over the next couple of months," Moulton told reporters.
When asked what he did not see in other candidates that he would have to offer, Moulton said: "I don't look at this as a horse race. It's not just about me versus other people. I've always seen this job as how best I can serve this country."
Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer who served four tours of duty in Iraq, was re-elected last fall to his third term as 6th District congressman. He and his wife, Liz, have a 4-month-old daughter, Emmy, and he spoke about how being a new dad had given him a fresh perspective on running.
"When you look at America today, when you look at the fact that we can't keep the government open, when I look at my 4-month-old daughter and say, 'I don't want her growing up in this world,' I feel like there might be an opportunity for me to do more," he said. "But ultimately, it's about how can I serve the country best, how can I serve my community best, and not about just how I match up to different candidates in the race."
And although good candidates need not be veterans, he said, his military experience could be valuable.
"I do think that having a commander-in-chief who has had to make life or death decisions is probably a valuable experience, especially when we are in the midst of the longest war in American history, when we have troops literally all over the globe, and a lot of tough choices that the commander in chief will have to make," he said.
Asked if he's the right person to go up against President Donald Trump, Moulton said: "You know, it wouldn't be the hardest challenge that I face in my life, and I think that we ought to have someone who can sort of take that in stride. ... We need to stand up to this president. We cannot afford having him, or, frankly, the vice president, be the next president of the United States. The stakes are too high. They are too high for American families."
Running a two-year campaign would affect his own family, he acknowledged, but said, "I have an amazing wife who also has an incredible career and a lot of her own priorities and everything. And before she had told me: 'You know, Seth, this is going to be terrible for me, terrible for our family, but if you think you need to do it, I'll support you.'"
That sentiment shifted over the past month, Moulton said, especially over Christmas as they spent time with Emmy.
"'This is probably going to be pretty rough for me,'" his wife told him, he said, "'and pretty rough for our family, but I think you should do it.' And a lot of it does come back to having Emmy, and to having this amazing experience of not only completely falling in love with someone that I just met, right, but also just really thinking hard about the world she is going to grow up in. And I don't want her to grow up in this world. I want to her to grow up in a much better world with equal opportunities."
Laying the groundwork
Moulton has taken a number of steps that would help lay the groundwork for a presidential run.
In fact, his Salem speech came fresh off a "meet and greet" before the Bedford, New Hampshire, Democratic Committee on Feb. 2.
Moulton spent much of his last term traveling around the country, raising money and stumping for his Serve America candidates, many of whom were veterans, in an effort to win back the House of Representatives.
Of the 34 congressional candidates Moulton's Serve America PAC supported, 21 won, and many did so in swing districts, flipping them from red to blue.
His Serve America PAC, Serve America Victory Fund and Serve America Women's Victory Fund raised more than $7 million for those candidates.
And, like others mulling a run for president, he has penned a memoir, "Called to Serve, Learning to Lead in War and Peace," about his experiences as a Marine in Iraq and during his four years in Congress. Moulton's spokesman, Matt Corridoni, said the publishing date is still uncertain; Target's site lists the release date as April 16.
The blurb on Target's website says the book is "the story of how the training, success, and failure Moulton endured in the Marine Corps transformed him as a leader, and how his fellow Marines changed his life."
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.